Dublin’s BusConnects Core Bus Corridor, a plan to change the street layouts of most main roads from suburbs into Dublin City Centre, still includes notable sections of sub-standard cycle tracks, which are too narrow.
While there is a large amount of documentation for each route on the project website, the drawings provided lack details on widths and does not indicate the width of many narrow sections.
To establish the scope of the issue, IrishCycle.com requested more detailed files of the public consultation drawings, using route ‘CBC 12’, Rathfarnham to City Centre, as an example. The route includes Rathmines and Camden Street. The canal bridge at Rathmines is currently the busiest route for people on bicycles entering the city centre.
IrishCycle.com made a normal and an environmental freedom of information request for “the CAD files for BusConnects route CBC 12 Rathfarnham as per the public consultation”, but while the National Transport was supposed to respond to the request by 02/12/2020, it has only replied thus morning, on the day that the third round of BusConnects public consultation ends.
The request was rejected by the NTA (see towards the end of this article for the fine details). But many routes in BusConnects have sub-standard width cycle tracks and a number of routes have notable sections of narrow cycle tracks of around 1.5 metres wide.
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Separately, a spokesperson for the National Transport Authority said: “We wouldn’t regard the two-metre standard cycle-track width as narrow, and the guidance is not absolute in this regard.”
The width of 2 metre cycle tracks features as the main width across the BusConnects routes. However, even on some of the wider sections routes in the city, there’s little sign of 2.5 metre cycle tracks as outlined as the target width for primary routes in the NTA’s own Greater Dublin Area (GDA) Cycle Network Plan:
The target width in the GDA plan is in line with Dutch CROW guidance:
While a more detailed version of drawings was not made available as requested, the general BusConnects drawings are available to view on the project’s website. These show main sections not only fail to meet the GDA plan target width but also fail to meet the BusConnects target width.
The drawings show — for example — that at the southern end of Camden Street the cycle track is just 1.5 metres wide.
At this section of street, the NTA has chosen a layout with a bus lane and two general traffic lanes in one direction and a contra-flow bus lane in the other direction:
Similarly the “typical” cross-section shows cycle tracks on South Richmond Street shows sub-standard cycle tracks in both directions because the authority has made the choice to use bus lanes rather than bus gates as a means of bus priority:
Rathmines the cycle tracks are marked as 2 metres, but it’s not clear from the public drawings if this is the effect useable width or if the measurement includes kerbs.
On the Rathgar Road — again as an example — the cycle tracks are marked as 1.5 metres wide as shown here is the NTA’s “typical” cross-section:
On the northside, significant sections of the Finglas Road is also to include sub-standard 1.5 metre width cycle tracks:
In west Dublin, cross-sections with widths are not even provided on the Liffey Valley route. This is an issue recurring on the drawings for some other routes too, although often just for some pages of the drawings.
However, on parts of the Ballyfermot Road, the cycle track is shown to be around or less than half the width of lanes on the road — indicating 1.5 metre cycle tracks or narrower:
Meanwhile, in the Docklands, existing bridges are planned to be relocated so that bus priority does not impact on the general traffic. However, the planned two-way cycle track will be at most 3.5 metres wide when best international practice is to have at least 4 metre wide two-way paths in busy areas.
But the problem one the Docklands does not stop there — the cycle paths narrow to less than the width of the bus or general traffic lanes, meaning the cycle path is notably less than 3 metres wide:
“Each area is assessed in the wider context of the overall cross-section requirements and taking into account other impacts like land-take mitigation for example,” the authority said.
The NTA added: “In circumstances where the cycle track width may step below two metres the basis for this will be set out in the proposals that will be submitted to An Bord Pleanala in the statutory application.”
The NTA also noted that current layouts are work-in-progress and still subject to change.
Kevin Baker, chairperson of the Dublin Cycling Campaign, said: “The cycle tracks need to be wide enough to provide a safe comfortable experience. Many of the BusConnects proposed cycle routes are main cycle routes that will need to cater for hundreds of people per hour. The cycle tracks need to be wide enough to support this.”
In rejecting the freedom of information request, the NTA decision maker said: “The files which are the subject of your request concern matters which relate to the deliberative process of the Authority and are refused under Section 29(1) of the Freedom of Information Act 2014. As decision maker, I am satisfied that in this case the release of the records/files would not be in the public interest as the premature release of these records may impact the process of careful consideration and analysis of, and the overall outcome of, the public consultation process.”
The decision maker added: “In addition, I have refused the release of the files/records pursuant to the provision of Section 30(1)(a) of the Act on the basis that the release at this stage of the process of public consultation would prejudice the effectiveness of that consultation process. The premature release of individual records/files would not allow the proper conduct of the process of public consultation and could undermine a considered view of submissions received. In reaching this decision, I have considered whether the public interest would, on balance, be better served by granting than by refusing to grant the FOI request concerned. I am satisfied that this is not the case at the present time. However, these records/files may be released at a later stage.”